Late mediaeval religion has been described as a death cult. The shattering effects of the Great Pestilence which killed more than a third of the population, led to a consciousness of sin, a preoccupation with death and a fear that the dead were still suffering in purgatory.

People responded by leaving vast sums for the saying of Masses in perpetuity, and the very wealthy established chantries where their families could be buried together and prayed for.

The beautiful Beauchamp chapel in Warwick is a fine example, and even Henry VII's chapel at Westminster was planned for Henry and his ancestors and descendants to be prayed for.

The Reformation swept the chantries away, but commemoration of the dead was still important, even if the overt religious ritual had disappeared, or been hidden.

Articles in this section